Ranunculus alismaefolius or alismifolius ?

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Mon Apr 14 15:36:33 CDT 1997

On Mon, 14 Apr 1997, Thomas G. Lammers wrote:

> At 01:40 PM 04-12-97 -0500, Frederick J. Peabody wrote:
> >  The word "alisma"
> >is derived from the Greek (halisma), meaning a kind of water plant.  The
> >stem is "alism-" to which is added the combining vowel "-o-" since the
> >stem ends in a consonant.  This is followed by the adjective, in our case
> >folius -a -um (i.e. folius, folia, or folium, depending on the gender of
> >the generic name).
> Folius is a noun; foliatus would be the adjective.  It is also Latin, not
> Greek.

"Folium" (nominative singular), "folii" (genitive singular) is a neuter
noun of the second declension.  The ending "-us" (in our case "folius") is
not found in the second declension of a neuter noun.  "Folius," "folia,"
"folium," however, is a legitimate adjective, as well as "foliatus,"
"foliata," "foliatum," both meaning "-leaved;" and "foliosus -a -um"
meaning many-leaved, etc. etc.

> Alisma may be of Greek origin, but I believe it is to be taken as
> Latin, as it is a genus name.

Indeed, it is to be "taken" or treated as a Latin word according to the
Code; but this is not the issue here.  The derivation and proper
construction of the stem is of concern.  The author of the protologue
makes the decision as to whether to use a Latinized form of the Greek
"halisma" (i.e. "alismat-"), or to use the strict Greek form (i.e.

The author of the species Ranunculus alism*folius chose to use the Greek
form, i.e. without converting this first declension Greek noun "halism-a"
(nominative singular) "halism-as" (genitive singular) to a Latinized third
declension noun "alism-a" (nominative singular) "alismat-is" with an
irregular nominative singular.  Whether this was intentional or not has
little bearing, in my opinion, on the proper combining form since both
stems end in a consonant.  The Code recommends that the original spelling
of names be used unless they constitute orthographic or typographic

> Because the family based on Alsma is Alismataceae (same genitive business
> applies there), I suggested "alismatifolius", based on my understanding of
> Rec. 60G.1.

Plant Families have separate authorship from Genera and Species and
selection of word stems for their names is an independent issue, except,
of course, for type genus in a family.  Thus the author of the plant
family "Alismataceae" chose to use the Latinized form of the Greek
"halisma" (alism-a, alismat-is), thus the stem is "Alismat-" instead of
"Alism-."  In my opinion there would have been as much justification in
classical usage for the selection of the family name "Alismaceae" by the
author, although now I am accustomed to "Alismataceae" and "Alismaceae"
sounds wrong.

As I cited above, your recommendation to use "alismatifolius" constitutes
a change in the stem selection of the protologue author.  I think that
this goes beyond the intention of a change of an orthographic error.  I
would recommend "alismofolius" as my first choice, with "alismifolius" as
a not-so-acceptable, but tolerable, alternative.

> **************************************************************
> Thomas G. Lammers
> Classification, Nomenclature, Phylogeny and Biogeography
> of the Campanulaceae, s. lat.
> Department of Botany
> Field Museum of Natural History
> Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive
> Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA
> e-mail:           lammers at fmppr.fmnh.org
> voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317
> "When something defies description, let it."  -- Arnold H. Glasow

Frederick J. Peabody
Associate Professor of Botany
University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD  57069  USA
fpeabody at sundance.usd.edu

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